5 Out of 6 Calls for San Diego County Food Stamps and Other Benefits Go Unanswered

by on February 8, 2012 · 4 comments

in Civil Rights, San Diego

MercuryNews.com / Feb. 7, 2012

SAN DIEGO—Five out of every six calls to San Diego County seeking food stamps or other benefits don’t get through, and those that do face an average wait of more than 30 minutes, according to an internal county report obtained by U-T San Diego .

More than 350,000 calls don’t get answered every month because the county’s Health and Human Services Agency hasn’t hired enough workers or installed enough phone lines, according to a newspaper review of the report in a story published online Tuesday.

The system picks up about 68,000 calls a month, according to the report.

Of those, 40 percent are answered by a county employee; 24 percent of the callers hang up during the automated cycle; 21 percent get help in the automated system or get transferred; and 15 percent of the calls are answered by a contractor, the report said.

“Technology solutions are insufficient for the size of (Health and Human Services Agency) and not proactively anticipating the needs of the organization,” the study said.

County Health and Human Services Agency Director Nick Macchione told the newspaper he is committed to implementing recommendations from the study.

The county plans to boost call center staff from 59 to 155 and improve training for existing workers. Another 50 phone lines are to be added, bringing the total to 192, Macchione said.

The county has spent $3.6 million so far to improve access to food stamps, welfare and other services, Macchione said. The agency plans to spend even more on kiosk scanners for the welfare offices and making other technological improvements to streamline the application process, he said.

The report was written by InTelegy, a Northern California-based call center consulting firm.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Marlyn Steber February 9, 2012 at 9:33 am

If this were just about answering the phone, it would still show that so-called Welfare departments are filled with haughty people with a basic dislike for the poor. I am happy to hear that training is on the agenda. Customer service is an art! I know two women who have had jobs in two different California counties who ridicule their potential/former clients. Pride is not tasty when you have to swallow it and beg for help to feed your children.

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avatar Goatskull February 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm

You’re not far off the mark. I’ve known people employed by The Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), and go home or hit the bar for happy hour after work and make jokes about the less fortunate, and even brag about their lack of concern for the less fortunate as a badge of honor.

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avatar scott February 9, 2012 at 10:43 am

As I understand the numbers have been a bit misconstrued. For example, callers get a busy signal then immeadiately hang up and redial, repeat this 5 times in 1 minute and you’ve got 5/6 calls that were not answered and then the final one that is answered.
At least the county is hiring more workers.

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avatar babo55 February 9, 2012 at 8:46 pm

I would say that 80-90% of the time the default recording is “Due to high call volume, we are unable to answer your call at this time. Try back later”. It is very rare to get even the automated system. Whenever I call the state and they refer me back to the county I tell them the county does not answer the phone. They seem to know that SD county does this. There are no individually assigned workers for cases apparently now so that may add to the problem.

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